The times they are a-changin’


A big issue for the Berkshires is the whole concept of aging. Let’s face it: Younger people have different ways of accessing culture, news, music and theater than we did. We know that many of us are getting a little older now. It’s cool, of course, that we are living longer but quite frequently when you go to our beloved Tanglewood or to the many events sponsored by places like the Mahaiwe, you are likely to see a lot gray hair. Sooner or later, the human experience being what it is, people pass on (which is a nice way of saying “die”.) Will a new group of people come in to replace them or will the institutions that are so important to us fade away like General McArthur? (See, if you’re young you have no idea what I mean.)


It is no secret, for example, that newspapers like the one you and I love to hold and fold and drop food on are in real trouble. Studies show that young people do not read newspapers. Every night I check in on my various newspaper apps like The Eagle or the New York Times. By the time I wake up in the morning, some stories have been updated or changed. The Eagle is doing a great job of getting their stories up at night but many journalism experts predict that 10 years from now, there will be very few printed newspapers. If young people don’t read newspapers either in print or online, they will know less. The less they know, the less educated they will be when it comes to making informed decisions.


Then, too, there are the so-called aggregators. These are sites that post what other people are writing. In some cases it’s called “stealing,” but newspapers like it because it inevitably brings other people to the sites that a newspaper owns.



As for Tanglewood, my favorite place in the Berkshires, we see people like James Taylor filling the hall. Events like Film Night are also very popular. The Boston Symphony needs to get younger posteriors into the seats and they have been terrific about figuring out ways to attract a younger demographic. They are not alone when it comes to the classical music dilemma. Yehuda Hanani has a wonderful series called “Close Encounters with Music.” Their home seems to be the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington but once again, some seats are often unfilled. I’ve tried to help Yehuda by doing periodic interviews with him in a segment called “Classical Music According to Yehuda.” It turns out to be a popular part of our programming.


We also play the entire Metropolitan Opera season on WAMC. Relatively few people listen to the opera but it is an important part of the American arts scene. What’s more, if things like the opera and every Tanglewood concert are not accessible on the radio, even fewer people would attend the live performances. I know from personal experience that my kids heard the BSO on WAMC and Tanglewood became important to them.


With all of that said, things do change. We’ve seen it in publishing and we’ve seen it in music. It’s the way of the world. Our children want to do their own thing. If we love the old way, we are forced to make choices and fixes to those institutions that we value. There will always be people who don’t want to recognize what’s at stake here. Some will mutter and carry on about what kids are listening to or reading. It’s important to remember that it was the presence of young people on the political scene that demanded that gays and lesbians be allowed to marry. They just didn’t understand the old way of thinking and when it came, it came fast. You don’t have to like it — you just have to understand it.


Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 8/23/14

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